After decades in black, Iran women see color

First fashion show held since Islamic revolution

January 15, 2001|By ASSSOCIATED PRESS

TEHRAN, Iran - Wearing bright dresses of silk and cotton, teen-age models have been strutting the catwalk in Iran - the first fashion show in this country since the Islamic revolution more than two decades ago.

In a nation where powerful clerics dictate what women can wear in public, the dresses on display come in a variety of colors, predominantly bright red, blue, bright green and khaki. They are both long- and short-sleeved, and some even reveal cleavage.

The show, held as part of a youth fair and open only to women, has drawn more than 16,000 people to a north Tehran exhibition hall.

Designer Mahla Zamani said she is trying to "revive Iran's colorful clothing heritage."

"For more than two decades, the head-to-toe black chador has symbolized the restrictions imposed on women by the religious establishment," Zamani said. "The time has come now for women to choose the dress they like while respecting Islamic requirements."

"Black represents sadness in our culture," she said. "We are displaying bright dresses, a mixture of modern and traditional designs, to remind visitors of Iran's rich dress designs and offer freshness amid so many social restrictions."

Before the 1979 revolution that brought conservative clerics to power, women in Iran faced no restrictions on what they could wear. A dress code enacted afterward required them to cover themselves from head to toe even at the height of summer. The unwieldy chador - which literally means tent - covers all but the hands and face.

The restrictions have relaxed somewhat since the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami in 1997.

Not everyone was pleased.

"It's not Islamic for young women appearing half-naked in public, even if only before a female audience," said Tahereh Housseinpour, in her 30s. "Unfortunately, we can see some symbols of Western corruption finding their way into our society."

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